“Wuhan Needs Help” organizers redirect donations to fight coronavirus in Minnesota


Portrait of Jennifer Yang ’22, a Macalester student from Wuhan, China. Photo by Long Nguyen ’21.

Lindsay Weber, Managing Editor

When Jennifer Yang ‘22 first learned of the coronavirus outbreak in her home city of Wuhan, China, she never expected that the virus would grow into a global pandemic affecting nearly every country in the world.

“Right now, my friends and parents in Wuhan started to ask me if I’m okay, if I’m doing well,” Yang said, “when several weeks ago, I was doing the same thing for them.”

Before the coronavirus outbreak was even on the radar of many Macalester students, Yang and students from the Chinese Culture Club (CCC) were raising money for hard-hit Wuhan hospitals. In mid-February, Yang and other members of the CCC launched the fundraiser “Wuhan Needs Help” and raised around $24,700 for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers in Wuhan.

“Being far away from home, Chinese students here at Mac have been living in distress,” reads a February 13th Mac Weekly op-ed from CCC students titled “Call to Macalester College: Wuhan needs community support.

“We are worried about families and friends who have been kept indoors, living under the fear of being infected,” the op-ed continues. 

Student organizers were pleased with the overwhelming support the fundraiser received from the greater Macalester community.

“We see professors donating hundreds of dollars, staff, they spread the word to their colleagues,” chair of the CCC Long Hei ‘22 said. “I think we raised $14,000 during one weekend – over two to three days, we raised $14,000, almost $15,000, and I think that was impressive.”

Of the money raised, the group spent around $21,000 shipping over 1,200 coveralls to Wuhan healthcare workers. The group planned on eventually donating the remaining $3,700 to Wuhan. 

However, by the end of March, Wuhan and other hard-hit areas of China had largely stabilized the spread of coronavirus and were no longer suffering from medical supply shortages. At the same time, the coronavirus was sweeping through an entirely unprepared United States, overwhelming hospitals and causing thousands of infections and deaths.

In late March, economics professor Liang Ding, who had helped students coordinate their fundraising efforts, suggested redirecting the remaining money where it was needed most: here in the US.

“We realized that in the US, they don’t have…  enough storage of these PPEs, and the health workers are exposed to tremendous risk,” Ding said. “I think the hospitals need this help.”

The students agreed. The group wrote to the donors to let them know that their money was being repurposed. 

“Everyone seemed to understand,” Ding said.

$2,000 of the remaining money will go to the Association of Minnesota Chinese Physicians who Ding said have the connections and knowledge to purchase qualified PPE, and have already made thousands of donations of masks and coveralls within the state. The last $1,800 will go directly to a hospital in Minnesota. The organizing group has yet to decide where exactly the money will go, but are planning to donate it to a HealthPartners hospital in Saint Paul.

Yang believes that showings of solidarity like this one are the key to overcoming the global pandemic.

“I think the situation now is very tough for everyone,” Yang said. “But I believe that if we care about each other and we do everything we can for each other, it will get better.”